Assembling into April for this month’s ambassadors are our Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches! Our colony of cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa) started with just 3 adult females in April of 2015. Since then, the colony has grown to over several hundred. These ambassadors were given to us after they were on display at a local nature center. We have named a few of our hissing friends such as Eleanor, Bella, and Star, but we do have a fairly large colony (a family amount), so we can’t name them all! Contrary to popular belief, these cockroaches do not live in dirty places, and they do not fly or bite. They’re the cleanest all round, spending most of their day eating and cleaning themselves!
The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach can grow up to 7.5 cm (~ 3 inches) in length as they are one of the largest cockroach species. These “hissers” are brown in color, wingless and have long antennae. They also differ from some other cockroach species in that the males possess horns! As their name suggest these insects are native in Madagascar and live in forest and other moist, tropical regions. Like 99% of all cockroach species, hissers live on forest floors, where they hide amongst the leaves, logs, and other debris. However, at night they become much more active and scavenge for meals which primarily consist of vegetables, fallen fruit and decaying organic matter which allows them to live as long as five years!
Did you know that our small colony of hissers can eat a single carrot in a single day?! To add some perspective, that would be like a classroom full of kids able to eat a carrot the size of an entire school bus! Although, if it were a giant carrot cake, I’m sure they would be willing to give it a try.
Another reason why they’re called the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is that they’re capable of hissing! While other insects create sound by rubbing body parts together, the cockroaches hiss by releasing air from their abdominal spiracles which causes a hissing sound! All hissing cockroaches can produce this hiss when they’re disturbed, but only males ever emit the fighting hiss as they are very territorial and use their horns in combat. Their hisses are very loud which plays a large role in the colony through means of hierarchy, courtship, and communication. The hissing is used to communicate with the rest of the colony as well as to threaten and warn away predators!